Quite a good one, that one, and of course, it starred GONG HYO JIN, who happens to be one of my fave Korean actresses!
If you’ve watched this too, surely you’d remember that the male lead Jo In Sung could only fall asleep in his bathroom, and decorated in his own special way?
Remember there’re two camel paintings in the drama?
It’s OK, It’s Love
Here, a closer look.
In EP 6 of the drama, Jo In Sung’s character told Gong Hyo Jin’s character this about the pair of camel paintings,
Nomadic people in the desert tie up their camels to trees at night like this. But as you can see they untie them in the morning. But the camels don’t run away, because they remember being tied up to the tree in the night… just like how we remember the pains from our own pasts. That means the pain and trauma from our pasts… are what keeps us pulled down. I have my bathroom, and you have your anxiety.
Turns out this pair of camel paintings was the work of a very pretty artist, Min Song-A (민송아).
Read that she’s also an actress on top of being a painter. There’re a few other paintings in the house in the drama, including one of butterfly and another of coffee beans. Very interesting work.
Anyway, the whole point of me sharing this is how I’m reminded, again, of how sometimes we are our worst enemies, and we ourselves stand in the way of our success, or of us trying something new.
Coz we allow ourselves to be shackled to our own thoughts, our own imagined limitations.
Wasn’t planning to blog. Feeling a little blue since it’s late Sunday night and it’s gonna be a new work week tomorrow.
I actually quite like what I do at work, but I just dread waking up in the mornings. Oh, you didn’t know? I sometimes describe myself as a lifetime member of the I-am-not-a-morning-person club, hee!
But there’re just too many ‘signs’ telling me to just start working on that blog post that’s been on my mind for a few months now. Yea, I’ve all these little ideas in my head about what to blog about all the time, but hehe, most of the time, they just live in my head and never see daylight.
First sign, this Metlife TV commercial from Hong Kong. Get ready some tissues, will ya?
It’s hard to ignore the little voice at the back of my head, urging me to go blog this post out. So, leggo!
This is Alice’s Story
Yes, I’m going to tell you a story about Alice, the security officer who works in my building.
I see Alice quite often. She’s the cheeriest of all of the security officers; she never fails to flash her sunny dimpled smile at us.
Coz she looks so so so smiley and friendly all the time, I was pretty shocked when I read HERE about how life has not been easy for her.
A few of us cried after reading that article and also after finding out more when we went to chat with her.
Since her divorce back in 2002, Alice has single-handedly brought up her two daughters. Back in those earlier years, it was really tough as her two children were still very young. She even had to work THREE(!!) jobs to support herself and the children.
In the day, she worked in a secondary school to sell uniform and also to photocopy stuff for the students. She also worked at a foodstall selling mee-chiam-keuh to supplement her income.
Even then, it was still not enough.
Some nights, she would bring her two young daughters to deliver Vitagen at some HDB blocks. She would start from one end of the block, and her daughters would start from the other end, and they would meet mid-way. And they did this floor by floor.
Life was so tough that at one extremely difficult point after the divorce, Alice had to seek help from a temple. “They gave me some rice and dry rations to help with the expenses.”
Then in 2006, Alice joined the security industry. Although she didn’t have to work three jobs anymore, she worked (and in fact, she still does) 12 hours of work everyday, and six days a week.
But still, the role of a security officer was a little like a lifeline for her, since it’s a more stable income for her. And there’re also ‘proper benefits’.
I had to take a test after the security course, and I was very lucky because it was in Mandarin. My English is very poor.
Alice now earns $900 a month. That’s not enough to support a family. So she works overtime or on her off days so that she can earn $1,200 to $1,400 a month before CPF.
Is that enough?
For Alice, home is a rental flat in the East of Singapore, where she lives with her youngest daughter. Her elder daughter has gotten married and moved out. Unfortunately, the older one does not earn much and is not able to provide much for Alice.
The younger daughter is still in university and I understand that she stays in the dorm.
Alice’s salary will have to take care of:
– rental of flat
– utility bills
– service & conservancy charges
– daughter’s school fees
– daughter’s accommodation, etc etc etc
The above already amount to $990 a month!
On top of all these, Alice also gives $100-$200 to her siblings who takes care of their wheelchair-bound 90-year-old mother on a full-time basis.
I cannot even start to imagine how little Alice has for herself every month. How to survive on less than a couple of hundred of dollars when she still has to travel to work and also to feed herself?
Smiling Through the Hardship & the Tears
I can still remember how I had felt when I first heard her story. For quite a few days, I just could not shake off the images of her working herself to the bone to feed her two children when she was just divorced.
It must have felt like it was just her against the world.
Surely she must have wondered countless times how on earth she could brave through this and bring up the two kids. And surely, through the years, she must have thought of giving up.
But a parent’s love is strong, and a parent’s love is unconditional.
I’ve always thought that a mother’s strength knows no bounds. So long as she knows her children are counting are on her, she will be there for them. Maybe it’s the maternal instinct in Alice, or maybe it’s her own survival streak.
Guess I’d never know.
It’s CNY period now.
I remember what else she’d told us. She said whilst many Chinese families welcome the lunar new year and look forward to the festivities, Alice herself has dreaded it for years. You see, CNY means having to spend more money.
I was even thinking… this is a woman who has worked long and hard non-stop for many, many years. This is a woman who has known and tasted none of the so-called better, finer things in life. This is a woman who has been dealt the shorter end of the bargain.
For years on, she wakes up everyday to a long day of work and this goes on and on, repeat mode.
How, then, is she able to live life with such positivity and so full of smiles for everyone? How did she cope with all the negative thoughts and banish all the ideas of how life is not fair?
Where did she even find the energy to smile?
To know of Alice’s struggles and hardship is a personally humbling experience.
I am reminded once again of my wish to be kinder to the less fortunate and privileged amongst us. We may not be able to help everyone, but whatever little help we can give to a certain someone, it may mean a helluva difference to that someone at that point in time.
I’d say go ahead and spread more love and give more warmth.
So for this CNY, a couple of my colleagues and I will be passing some Fairprice vouchers and angpaos to Alice. Couldn’t give her earlier, coz she was on medical leave for her leg operation or something.
I sometimes feel like the process of bringing about big change for low-wage workers is akin to trying to move a mountain with your bare hands.
Have you caught up with our SGBUDGET 2015 yet? The Labour MPs will be making their speeches during the COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY DEBATE these coming two weeks, and Zainal should be speaking on how to help the low-wage workers.
Let’s hope we can all do more for the needy, as individuals and also as a nation.
Of course, the Labour Movement wants to help all workers and to bring their wages up. But it cannot just demand for higher wages, can it?
Firstly, it doesn’t have the legal power to demand for higher wages from the employers. Secondly, even if it has, would higher wages without productivity gains be sustainable?
What about Minimum Wage?
If just raising wages would solve the problem for low-wage workers, then surely lobbying for the government to implement MINIMUM WAGE/ would do?
Sure, the government could impose a minimum wage and this should make everyone happy right?
We could increase their salary by a couple of hundreds based on the minimum wage. But fast forward 5 years, or 10 years, these security guards could still be earning the same amount. This also means that companies can fire and hire anytime – at minimum wage. So it doesn’t matter how good you are, or how hard you work, you will never be better paid because the headcount only cares about how “cheap” you are.
This is probably why even the LABOUR CHIEF LIM SWEE SAY says NTUC is not supportive of the minimum wage system, and prefers a more holistic model that includes training and progression for the workers as well as productivity gains for the business.
Moreover, as a business owner myself, I don’t believe in paying higher wages just because I have to. I am all for increasing the salaries (and hence the standard of living) of my employees but this increase must come hand-in-hand with increased productivity and contribution to my company.
That’s why NTUC has been fighting for PROGRESSIVE WAGE MODEL (PWM) to be implemented for some sectors, mainly the ones with low-wage workers and whose wages have been suppressed for some years.
Anyway, NTUC has successfully lobbied for the government and the security industry to fully adopt the PROGRESSIVE WAGE MODEL (PWM) come September 2016.
Good News for Alice
So, the good news for Alice is that she can look forward to her pay being adjusted to a minimum of $1,100 upon the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) is fully implemented.
That’s over 20% increase in basic pay!
The Progressive Wage Model (PWM), introduced by the Labour Movement, aims to help workers earn better wages through skills upgrading and productivity improvements. It helps workers through four distinct ladders, namely, (1)Wages, (2)Skills, (3)Productivity and (4)Career Progression.
What this means is that not only will Alice be assured of a higher basic salary, she will also have more opportunities to receive training to upgrade her skills. With better skills, there will also be opportunities for career progression and also higher pay, whilst the companies will see higher productivity levels and hopefully, better staff retention too.
We can expect the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) to benefit over 30,000 security officers once fully implemented.
Once her pay has been adjusted, Alice can either cut back on the OT hours to enjoy the same pay as she is getting now so that she can have more time to rest and for her family, or she can continue to work the same hours and receive more money!
Don’t under-estimate the adjustment to the basic pay as it also means that she will receive significantly more OT with the higher basic salary.
It all started from THIS TUMBLR POST, when someone uploaded a photo of a dress to ask the Internet for help to see if it’s black and blue, or white and gold.
Her friends couldn’t agree on the colours, and it’s freaking them out.
It must have flooded your Facebook feeds the way it flooded mine. I was at a meeting yesterday morning, but when I came out, i found out that my colleagues were quibbling over this matter. And hehe, they weren’t the only ones apparently!
A quick look at my Facebook feeds showed that people everywhere were chatting about this and hehe, read that quite a few of these chats turned pretty heated in no time!
Coz the black-and-blue camp could not understand how the other camp could actually see white and gold, and vice versa!
Seems like Buzzfeed had caught that story first and published a post on it, and initial readers’ poll showed an overwhelming majority saw white and gold, while a minority saw black and blue, and some peeps actually could see both!!
Was pretty fun as people tried to explain THE WHY’s.
Short week for most of us, ya? I know how many of my friends are so looking forward to the loooong weekend and also to the yummies and festivities!
Have you ever wondered about the people who actually have to work during CNY? The MRT peeps, the bus captains, the cleaners, the security officers… Can you imagine if they don’t work for those four days?
Anyway, speaking of security officers, I recently had a text convo with my BFF.
Rene has been experiencing some problems getting security officers for her office. It’s just one level and she’s looking at hiring two security officers.
Here, our exchange:
Ya, I know my wallpaper is very nice and sweet, thank you very much. I also likey, hee! And oh, nay, I don’t use boring Whatsapp with my closer circuit of chingus, I use Kakaotalk yo. Better and way cooler than Whatsapp lor. Me loves the group-call function, woohoo!
And I know, I know, shortage of 10,000 security officers is some kind of astoundingly shocking. I was super surprised that we’re short of 10,000 security officers when I first heard it.
Alamak, so how secured are we, riiiight? *shudders*
There are an estimated 33,000 active security officers in Singapore, yet it has been difficult to recruit and retain people in this profession due to how the public perceives the security officer’s job as a lowly appreciated AND lowly paid one.
This is despite the fact that some 70,000 have actually been trained to become security officers.
Today, the industry is grappling with a 25% shortage, which translates into some 10,000 positions. This number is expected to grow too.
Yea, there’s a whole host of challenges in the security industry. It’s really not rocket science to explain the severe shortage of security officers despite the fact that some 70,000 people have actually been trained.
1) Outsourcing –> Cheap-sourcing
2) Low Pay (wages suppressed as a result of cheap-sourcing)
3) The public’s perception of the job
4) Shortage of manpower
5) Looooooong working hours
Talking about low pay, did you know that the median basic pay of a security officer is reported to be between $700-$800?
I know right?!!! WUTTTTTT?!!
Even after working 12 hours a day and for six days a week, the gross pay is only around $1,550.
And the long working hours… super poor thing! According to the Singapore Yearbook of Manpower Statistics, 2014, the security and investigation industry is currently placed at the highest level of average weekly OT hours worked per employee across all industries!
Coz of the shortage of manpower, the security officers are usually required to clock 12 hours a day, six days a week. This means that many of these security officers clock some 95(!!) hours of over-time (OT) for under $2,000 every month!
Seriously overworked and underpaid.
Just imagine… these poor security officers are awake for 14 hours in a day. They take an hour to get ready for work, put in 12 hours of work, and then they take another hour to get home and rest. Repeat this six days in a week.
Seriously, what me-time? It sounds mighty scary to me.
The good news is the government has decided to adopt NTUC‘s Progressive Wage Model (PWM) proposal to help increase the suppressed wages of these security officers, who are really victims of CHEAP-SOURCING.
While the service providers in the security industry can adopt Progressive Wage Model on a voluntary basis for now, it will be mandatory come 2016. So there IS light at the end of the tunnel.
With a higher basic pay, the security officers’ OT pay will also go up.
Alternatively, they can also work fewer hours than they do now for the same amount pay come the implementation of Progressive Wage Model in 2016. With training, they can also upgrade their skills, and hopefully see career progression.
In some companies that have adopted the Progressive Wage Model ahead of the 2016 deadline, they are already experiencing positive changes. They have attracted a wider and better pool of candidates, and retention is also better.
Read about some happier cases of how young security officers have found career progression and pretty decent pay packages HERE.
You can find out more about Progressive Wage Model from MOM’s FAQs.
Oopsies! Did this post get a tad heavy and serious? Sorrrrry!
But hey, this IS something I feel rather strongly about, you know. How we should all understand more about the plight of the low wage workers, and also show more empathy and care towards them.
If you chance upon the security officers in your building, do remember that they have to work over the CNY festivities, keeping you and your building safe, while everyone else is home having reunion dinner with their family.
So go on, be extra thankful and be extra nice to them and more. Say ‘THANKS!‘ and maybe give an angpao too ^^